SCUM 1979 WIKI: THE JOHN JUDD INTERVIEW
In June 2012 we decided to get in contact with British actor John Judd (who has previously given his approval of this Wiki) to request an interview with him about the filming of Scum and his infamous character, the evil senior borstal officer 'Mr Sands'.
Real-life gent that he is, John was only too happy to oblige and the following transcript is the result:
SCUM WIKI: It is truly an honour for the Scum 1979 Wiki staff to be interviewing Mr John Judd, the actor behind our favourite film’s lead antagonist warden Mr Sands! John, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions today!
JOHN JUDD: My pleasure.
SCUM WIKI: In 2012, the film is now 33 years old (or 35 if you include the BBC screenplay). Do you remember much about your casting call and audition process for Mr Sands?
JOHN JUDD: No, I don't remember too much about Alan Clarke casting me but I do know I was up for a lead part in the BBC series Law & Order, and when I didn't get it I was then available to do the 1977 'Play for Today' version of Scum. Some consolation prize!
SCUM WIKI: What was it like working with Alan Clarke?
JOHN JUDD: Brilliant. He always had a twinkle in his eye and he got results! He was a real character and I'm sorry I didn't work with him again.
SCUM WIKI: Did you enjoy working with the rest of the cast, and what memorable events do you look back on fondly?
JOHN JUDD: I thoroughly enjoyed working with the rest of the cast. I think we all knew we were in something really special. I also got quite good at snooker and table tennis whilst I was waiting to be called for scenes. I purposely didn't get too close to the boys whilst filming as the next minute I might be 'hitting' them. I remember being impressed with the raw talent of the boys and am not surprised at the progress of many of them. I also remember that during the rehearsals for the film of Scum I was also playing dame in pantomime...quite a contrast! Another fond memory was getting my younger brother David an extra part in the riot scene which he thoroughly enjoyed!
SCUM WIKI: What can you tell us about the filming locations used?
JOHN JUDD: In 1977 it was in Redhill, Surrey at an old hospital I think and in 1979 it was at the old Shenfield Psychiatric Hospital but I think we did the riot scene back at Redhill.
SCUM WIKI: What was your inspiration for Sand’s character, and did your previous experiences with similar acting roles or your career as a teacher and police officer play any influence?
JOHN JUDD: I based Sands partly on two b*****d sergeants I had the misfortune to upset. One in the Police Cadets when I was 17 and another when I was about 23 when I was a Police Constable. They were ignorant bullies with no sense of humour and in love with their little bit of power. Having said that, the rest of my colleagues in the police were great and I am still in touch with my old inspector. I taught PE and drama at a tough Boys Comprehensive near Brixton, London and got quite good at avoiding the javelins being thrown my way! I enjoyed my experience as a teacher and directed a few school shows including 'Oliver!'. By the time I got to drama school I felt I had experienced quite a lot of life.
SCUM WIKI: How would you describe Sands in a single sentence?
JOHN JUDD: Humourless, racist, sadist who should be avoided.
SCUM WIKI: What was the most challenging aspect of working on the films?
JOHN JUDD: Making sure I didn't get hurt in the riot scenes! When we filmed the original 1977 TV version I was punched, kicked and cut in the riot scene, and Alan Clarke had to remind the boys that I was an actor! The production staff wanted to send me to hospital but I declined. However, I do remember having a headache afterwards! I made sure I made a very quick exit when we remade the 1979 film version as I know Alan Clarke was psyching up the boys before the riot, especially the ones who had come in just for the riot scene that day! Clarkey loved his realism! That's what made it such a powerful film.
SCUM WIKI: When did you last watch the film yourself?
JOHN JUDD: I hadn't watched it for over 20 years but caught it on TV recently. I think it is just as powerful now as it was all those years ago and every performance was, in my opinion, top notch. I didn't like Sands and felt quite detached from him after all these years. Alan Clarke certainly knew how to cast and get the best out of his actors.
SCUM WIKI: Do you still keep in contact with any of the cast or see them on other projects from time to time?
JOHN JUDD: No, not really. I worked with Ray Burdis in the police spoof Operation Good Guys about twelve years ago for the BBC. Ray co-wrote, produced and appeared in it. I played Assistant Commissioner 'Terra Blanche' in one episode. A real nut job! It was a hoot. Perry Benson was also in it. I was interviewed for The 100 Best TV Dramas in 2003 to discuss Scum, and Phil Daniels (who was interviewed on another day) sent his best regards and jokingly said I was an old b*****d! Phil played for my charity soccer team in a one off match I organised many years ago. I bumped into Phil Jackson when my wife was recording the soap opera Albion Market in the mid 80s as Phil's wife was also in it. I saw Danny John-Jules last year at the launch for a mutual friends make up school. He's a nice guy. Ray Winstone hasn't done badly has he? I really enjoyed his 'Magwitch' in Great Expectations. Other than that, I enjoy watching the progress of everyone who appeared in Scum.
SCUM WIKI: Did you enjoy working on The Professionals, Minder and Jossy’s Giants? (more Scum Wiki favourites!)
JOHN JUDD: Loved my two appearances in The Professionals, my two appearances in Minder, and Jossy's Giants was great fun, and I had a chance to play comedy for two series. Gordon Jackson was great and very encouraging. George Cole was a joy to watch close up as was Richard Briers when I did my second Minder. I was in contact with Lewis Collins a couple of years back, and Dennis Waterman was always good fun. Dennis and I had a good fight scene...spoiled only by my stunt double, who fell in a stream, being much bigger than me and with a lot more hair!
SCUM WIKI: What would you say has been your favourite role in your career so far?
JOHN JUDD: Four favourites I'm afraid! Inspector Chives in The Professionals episode 'In the Public Interest' directed by the late, great Pennant Roberts. 'John Canty' in The Prince & The Pauper, 'Blind Pew' in the TV musical version of Treasure Island and, of course, Mr Sands!
SCUM WIKI: What would be your dream role/project?
JOHN JUDD: I am working on it at the moment. It's a screenplay which I hope will find it's way onto film.
SCUM WIKI: What are your personal favourite movies and why?
JOHN JUDD: There are so many! The Godfather parts one and two, any Gene Hackman film but especially The French Connection 1 & 2, Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption, the original Planet Of the Apes, most of Clint Eastwood's stuff, Groundhog Day, The Searchers, Cool Hand Luke...they are all great, and I could go on and on!
SCUM WIKI: Have you seen the movie Dog Pound, a 2010 modern remake based on Scum set in a North American correctional facility?
JOHN JUDD: No.
SCUM WIKI: What recent projects can you tell us about, and what hobbies and interests does John Judd currently pursue?
JOHN JUDD: I used to write, produce and direct quite a lot of shows in the theatre and was executive producer on six of my wife's (the singer Helen Shapiro) albums. That was time consuming. When the project I am currently working on materialises I will let you know. It is taking a long time and I have to raise money for it. I used to be a season ticket holder at Crystal Palace FC until they kicked us out of our good seats the other year to accommodate the away fans. Have been back a couple of times but am now mainly an armchair supporter. Enjoy going to the theatre when I can.
SCUM WIKI: John, thank you so much once again for sharing your thoughts and memories with us today and we look forward to all your upcoming projects and assignments.
JOHN JUDD: My pleasure. Will keep you in touch.